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England lockdown: How to exercise safely

By Annabel Rackham
Newsbeat reporter

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
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With gyms and pools shut as England's second lockdown begins, many of us will be digging out the running kit again. But for some, the thought of running in the dark is a scary one - so how can we exercise safely?

Hannah Baptiste keeps fit by playing in a women's football team and running.

"I felt safe going to the park and playing football in the spring because I could see people around me but now the thought of finishing work and going for a run - it's really not ideal," Hannah tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The 27-year-old adds: "Football season started back up and I was able to go to training and at least we had floodlights on training days which made us feel safe."

"Going to the park at 5pm is scary, there are no lights whatsoever."

Hannah says she feels being a woman makes her "more susceptible to being abused or being attacked."

"When I go for a run I do it to release stress, but not being able to do that because you're thinking about who could be hiding behind a tree means it's not an option."

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And it's not just a worry for women, Hannah says.

"With everything that's been going on in the world, it has shown that people can be openly racist," she adds.

"Even for BAME men, going for a run could see them stereotyped for the colour of their skin and someone might think they're going to be attacked by them as that's the way the world perceives them."

image copyrightHannah Baptiste
image captionHannah (centre) plays football and runs to keep fit

Kate Dale, from Sport England, says there are a few things you could try if you're scared of exercising in the dark, starting with having a word with your boss.

"If you're working from home, see if there can be some flexibility so you can take a longer lunch hour or start a bit later," she says.

"If you work during the time you would have spent commuting, you could use that time for example.

"You don't have to go out for a long time, 10 -15 minutes and just a change of scenery is going to make a huge difference to how you feel physically."

Kate says physical exercise will be key to keeping our mental health in check during lockdown, and it allows you to see your friends too.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionWalking with a friend (and dog) is permitted under English lockdown rules

Guidelines in England say you can exercise outdoors with members of your household or one person outside of it, as long as you socially distance.

"You can still connect with friends and catch up even though it might be cold or dark," Kate says.

If you have no choice but to exercise alone in the dark, some simple measures can keep you safe.

Saskia Garner is from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns to help reduce the risk of violence and aggression towards people.

"Our key piece of advice is for people to have a buddy - a trusted person they can tell their plans to, so if they were to not return home safely, someone will be alerted," she says.

She says runners should be careful with tracking apps - making sure privacy settings are in place so routes and regular exercises times are not visible.

She says: "Stick to well-lit busy routes, somewhere you can call for help if you need it."

And if that's not enough to convince you to get your thermal running vest out, then home workouts could be an option.

"At the minute it's raining, it's cold outside and that is not going to motivate you to go outside for a walk or a run - obviously you need to get up and get moving." says Courtney Black, a 24-year-old personal trainer, who started doing daily workouts on Instagram at the start of the first UK lockdown.

"It's not healthy to sit on the sofa or your desk all day, if you get up and do a workout you're going to feel so good after and it will really set you up for the day."

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